Around London Fashion week, Dazed contributor Isabella Burley offers her view on how men and women dress with The London Cut
“The girls have a different beat to the boys,” exclaimed Christopher Shannon backstage after his menswear show. It was his strongest collection to date and the first time he had ever sent girls down the runway. Androgyny has always been present in menswear shows, but it seems that over the last few seasons designers have pushed gender roles – letting the girls get away with stealing the boys clothes.
For Shannon, this collection was all about three words - 'obsessive, compulsive, re-order'. The latter clearly emerged in his new choice of fabrics, where he introduced leather for the first time and developed his use of knitwear. But for me, this sense of 're-order' really emerged in his casting. “I didn't want to do it without a point of view,” he told me of his decision to use female models. “I thought, lets get the pieces made and if they work on the girls we do it. I wasn't going to get precious about it. The girls were kind of based on my assistant. She would try on our garments and look sexy in a really understated way. When she threw a look together she just had a ease of dressing. She's one of those girls that won't be dictated to and that is what I respond to. I think there is a difficult dynamic when menswear designers are designing for women. I didn’t want to take on a misogynist role. The girls have a different beat to the boys. The girls are a little bit harder.”
What is interesting for Shannon, is that next month during London Fashion Week he will reveal his first full womenswear collection. “I have been harassed to do it for so long,” he said laughing, but claims it will only be presented editorially and to his stockists – not on the catwalk. He went on to tell me that this season one of his references for the collection was the clutter he saw in hoarding documentaries. Yet, there was little chaos on the runway, and his female models slotted in seamlessly to form a uniform gang with the boys. They almost looked like the girls on the streets up north, merging a street wear sensibility with an understated sex appeal.
there was little chaos on the runway, and his female models slotted in seamlessly to form a uniform gang with the boys. They almost looked like the girls on the streets up north, merging a street wear sensibility with an understated sex appeal.
Looking back at last season, Shaun Samson sent two female models down the runway for his spring-summer 13' menswear collection. “It’s an interesting attraction to see a girl in a full look – it’s actually fucking hot,” he told me. Again, they fitted into to his uniform youth code of oversized silhouettes and rebellious attitudes. Even at monday's Fashion East installations, the casting appeared more androgynous than ever. Both Meadham Kirchoff and Maarten van der Horst choosing longhaired boys for their collections. Perhaps the most important designer to mention is Hedi Slimane, who cast female model Saskia de Brauw for his debut menswear campaign for Saint Laurent Paris. For Slimane, who has been exploring androgyny since his early days at Dior Homme and in his photography, this campaign really opened the doors to a new style androgyny that seems to be reverberating through both the streets and the runway today.